Markelle Fultz wasn’t at Washington long, but at Thursday’s NBA draft in Brooklyn, he wore his UW loyalty on his sleeve.
Actually, it was printed inside the back of his jacket.
As shown in photos on social media, the inside of Fultz’s suit jacket was emblazoned with several images from his past. There were photos of his family, his former UW coaches and of Fultz himself, both as a youngster and from his one season in Seattle, all set against purple fabric with a familiar, gold “Huskies!” printed across the top.
“These are all the memories that got me to where I am today,” Fultz said during ESPN’s telecast.
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Victory typically eluded the Huskies last season, despite Fultz’s once-in-a-generation talent. But Fultz made history for his former team on Thursday, when the Philadelphia 76ers selected him with the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft – a first for a UW men’s basketball player.
“It was unbelievable really. Truly a blessing,” Fultz said during a television interview shortly after being drafted. “Something I’ve been dreaming about. Last night I was sitting down thinking about hearing my name called. ... It was like God calling me. I’m just happy.”
This, of course, was expected. The 76ers earlier this week traded their No. 3 overall pick, plus a future first-round pick, to the Boston Celtics for the right to move up two spots to No. 1 and draft Fultz, the 6-foot-4 guard from Upper Marlboro, Maryland, who led the Pac-12 in scoring during his only collegiate season.
The selection makes Fultz the first No. 1 pick in UW men’s basketball history. The school’s previous highest-picked player was the late Bob Houbregs, taken No. 3 overall by Milwaukee in 1953. Washington also becomes the first school to have the No. 1 pick in the NBA and WNBA drafts in the same year; former Huskies star Kelsey Plum, the NCAA women’s career scoring leader, was picked No. 1 overall by the San Antonio Stars in April.
Fultz, 19, is the sixth UW player in the last six seasons and the third in the last two seasons to be picked in the first round, and he is the 13th UW player to be drafted since 2005. The Huskies had a pair of first-round picks in 2016: Marquese Chriss (No. 8 to Phoenix via Sacramento) and Dejounte Murray (No. 29 to San Antonio).
Despite Washington’s 9-22 record last season, Fultz stood out as one of the best players in the country. He averaged 23.2 points, 5.9 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game, though he missed six of the Huskies’ final eight games due to a knee injury. Still, his numbers earned him first-team All-Pac-12 recognition, plus third-team All-America recognition from the Associated Press. And his three-tier scoring ability – at the rim, mid-range and beyond the 3-point arc – made him the most versatile guard prospect in the draft.
He came to UW as perhaps the most touted recruit in school history, a five-star, McDonald’s All-America prospect with offers from college basketball’s premier programs. But the Huskies were the first power-conference program to offer him a scholarship, and he chose UW after growing close with former coach Lorenzo Romar and former assistant Raphael Chillious.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, Washington had the worst winning percentage for a team with that year’s No. 1 NBA draft pick since the common draft era began in 1966.
In Philadelphia, Fultz will join a young core that includes former LSU forward Ben Simmons, last year’s No. 1 overall pick; former Kansas center Joel Embiid, the No. 3 overall pick in 2014; former Duke center Jahlil Okafor, the No. 3 overall pick in 2015; and 23-year-old Croatian forward Dario Saric. The 76ers have not won more than 28 games in any of the past four seasons.
“This is a dream come true, really,” Fultz told reporters, via the Philadelphia Inquirer. “All of the hard work that I put in. I’m looking forward to going into this organization and giving it my all.”
Another Northwest product, Gonzaga big man Zach Collins, was drafted No. 10 overall by the Portland Trail Blazers after a trade with Sacramento. And former Huskies guard Nigel Williams-Goss, who starred at Gonzaga last season after transferring, was selected No. 55 overall in the second round by the Utah Jazz.
Collins, a 7-footer, played off the bench in his lone season with the Bulldogs behind senior starter Przemek Karnowski and averaged 10 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. Williams-Goss played his first two seasons at UW, earning second-team All-Pac-12 recognition as a sophomore, before transferring to GU, where he was voted a second-team AP All-American last season after averaging 16.8 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game for a Bulldogs team that played in the national championship game.